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Annals of Joseon Dynasty to be translated into English

The cover of the copies of Annals of the Joseon Dynasty(National Institute of Korean History)
The cover of the copies of Annals of the Joseon Dynasty(National Institute of Korean History)
The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, or the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, will be translated into English by the year 2033, according to the National Institute of Korean History.

The government-affiliated organization, who in 2010 announced their initial idea for the grand project, recently secured a budget of 500 million won for the starting phase of the venture this year. According to one of its officials, a total of 40 billion won will be needed until the completion of the project in 2033.

The organization is currently setting up a team of native English-speaking scholars who have previously translated Chinese classics into English, as well as local historians for the project.

“Up until the year 2014, however, the selected scholars will only practice their translation technique and work with each other to find the best way to create a coherent translation of the historical record,” an official member of the institution, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Korea Herald. “We felt that such a preparatory phase is necessary in order to produce accurate translation.”

Though nothing has been decided yet, the official said the selected scholars will translate the Chinese character text directly into English, without translating it into Korean first. “We feel that that’s the right way to do it,” she said. “Some scholars have told us that they are totally capable of doing that. Some have said they’ll have to work with Korean scholars in order to avoid factual errors. We are expecting a lot of collaborative work, and are still doing a lot of negotiating and talking.”

Once completed, the translated text will be posted on the organization’s website, alongside the original Chinese character and Korean copies.

“Contemporary Korea is obviously very different from the Joseon Dynasty,” the official said. “Yet its values are still very much embedded in our consciousness. A lot of Hallyu drama shows that deal with the kings and queens of Joseon have gained popularity overseas. Making an English translation of this historical record will only help for the future of Hallyu, as it will offer the accurate account of the popularized Korean history as a whole.”

The annals, which consist of a total of 1,893 volumes, have been designated as the 151st national treasure of Korea and are on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.

“What makes the annals different from other historical records in the world is its objectivity,” said the official. “They produced the record for the later generations, and no one could browse it while it was being written. We hope to let people know its value through the translation.”

By Claire Lee (
Korea Herald daum